Demographic Window Will Change in 40 Years

A TUMS study of 530 couples married for two years showed that 85% of them had not yet started families, with several saying it was still too early or that they preferred “a comfortable childless life”
Infertility, delayed marriages and the increasing tendency for single-child families impede the population growth rate.
Infertility, delayed marriages and the increasing tendency for single-child families impede the population growth rate.

Iran must take measures within three to four decades to prevent its population from ageing, said an expert at a recent conference on the consequences of single-child families.

“The country is currently experiencing a demographic window that is expected to last for the next 30-40 years before the population of older people becomes dominant,” said Mohammad Esmaeil Motlaq, director of the Population, Family and School Health Office at the Health Ministry.

Demographic window is defined as that period of time in a nation’s demographic evolution when the proportion of population of working age group is particularly prominent. This occurs when the demographic structure of a population becomes younger and the percentage of people able to work reaches its height.

The period typically lasts 30–40 years depending upon other population indices. The duration of this period is closely associated with that of a decline in fertility.

Iran’s total fertility rate (TFR) stands at 1.92 births per woman (bpw), based on the last official statistics in 2012, which is lower than the target of 2.1 bpw, the replacement level—the average number of children born per woman—at which a population exactly replaces itself from one generation to the next, without migration. This rate is roughly 2.1 children per woman for most countries, although it may modestly vary with mortality rates.

Without achieving this target, an ageing population (now 6.4 million in the total 80 million) within the next few decades is inevitable. According to World Bank data, the figure for bpw stood at 1.7 in 2014.

The current TFR is a big decline from the mid-1970s and the 1980s when it was 6.4. It also now poses a major challenge to the national population growth rate which is 1.3%.

The Leader Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei in a population policy directive in 2014, called for increasing the birth rate to “strengthen national identity.”

In a 14-article recommendation communicated to the heads of the executive, legislative, and judicial branches and the Expediency Council, he urged Iranians to help increase the country’s population, which he described as aging. “If we move forward like this, we will be a country of elderly people in the not too distant future.”

  Main Challenges

Motlaq further said, “The decline in the number of marriages in recent years, the increase in the average marriage age and the long gap between marriage and the birth of first or second child as well as the increasing rates of divorce, are among the main challenges in achieving the objective of 2.1 bpw and above,” ISNA reported.

Infertility, delayed marriages and the increasing tendency for single-child families also impede higher TFR.

Mohammad Shariati, health deputy at Tehran University of Medical Sciences (TUMS), pointed to delayed marriage and childbearing as the main problems in this regard.

“When couples marry late they may not have time to plan a bigger family or have more children since at an older age they face the risks of infertility as well,” he said.

A TUMS study of 530 couples married for two years showed that 85% of them had not yet started families.

Several couples said it was still too early to have children or that they preferred “a comfortable childless life.” Others blamed it on lack of income and time for child caring, housing problems and risks of losing a job after pregnancy and childbirth.

There are around 13 million couples in the country in the fertility age, 80% of whom wish to have two or three children, say Health Ministry surveys.

In reality economic issues are major deterrents in the way of larger families. The high cost of living, galloping inflation, high levels of joblessness among the educated youth, and the large number of educated women who outnumber men at the university level, are among the primary reasons for delayed marriages and single-child families.

Without taking into consideration people’s economic and social needs, it is unlikely that married couples will opt for larger families.

To pave the way, the ministry says it has implemented a number of plans.

“Also, to reduce infant mortality, six projects have been carried out by medical universities to ensure the health of one to six-year-old children,” Motlaq said, without elaborating.  

“Mortality among children under five years must reach less than 10 in 1,000 live births by the end of the sixth five-year development plan (2016-21) and preventable infant deaths should be reduced to zero in the next 13 years.”

It is also part of the objectives of the 2014 Heath Reform Plan to reduce the maternal mortality to 15 in 100,000 childbirths by the end of the sixth plan and gradually bring it to zero by 2030, in line with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (2030 Agenda).

There are three million infertile couples in the country, 440,000 of whom have been covered by the ministry’s treatment schemes.

The rate of marriage had seen a descending trend since 2006 up until this fiscal year, when it saw a 0.6% increase in the first seven months.

Over 1.4 million children have been born so far this fiscal (ends March 20) and the figure is expected to reach 1.5 million by the year-end.

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